Stretched thin by the needs of your children and your elderly parents? Try this “sandwich generation” solution: Move your young adults in with their grandparents and let them take care of each other.
This is working for Eileen Helmer, who turns 30 this summer, and her grandmother, also named Eileen, who is almost 90. They are best friends and roommates in Miami.
“I do all the grocery shopping, heavy lifting and changing the lightbulbs. She takes care of all of my plants,” says Helmer, who moved in with her grandmother more than six years ago to save money during law school.
She liked it so much that she stayed after she graduated and went to work for EY as a tax lawyer.
The middle generation – made up of her mom and her three aunts and uncles – could not be happier to have a caring family member on site.
“Everyone says it’s a great relief,” says Helmer.
Many members of the so-called “sandwich generation” feel squeezed by competing demands. In fact, more than half of those who provide financial support to an adult family member say it is hindering their ability to save for their own retirement, according to a new Wells Fargo/Gallup poll.
“It catches the middle generation a lot of times by surprise,” said Sandra McPeak, managing director of investments at Wells Fargo Advisors.
There is a huge range of solutions to deal with the caretaking dilemmas that arise. Liza Baker, a health coach (simply-healthcoaching.com/) based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has clients living with aging parents to provide full-time care. She also had a client who turned away a neglectful father.
Here is how some families are meeting the demands from both sides, without letting their own retirement get off track:
|Make decisions as a family|
Family communication is key, says McPeak. She has one set of clients in their early 80s who both need full-time care and are worried about how long their funds will hold out.
Their daughters call often, wanting to know the financial picture, but the parents are not ready to talk in more than broad brush strokes.
“The daughters are just able to take care of themselves, and they are terrified,” says McPeak.
But the financial picture is complicated, because the family might not benefit most by selling the parent’s home now while they are both alive, because they would have to pay tax on a gain over $500,000, and the house has greatly appreciated in value in 35 years. “It’s a touchy subject,” says McPeak, and one best discussed with all the parties at once, talking in specific numbers so everyone knows what is going on.
When caregiving sucks away all your energy and puts a halt on your career, there are ways to make it work for you.
After a long stretch putting her own career as a product designer on hold to care for her kids and her parents, Colleen Kavanaugh, 45, put her skills to use.
“When my dad died, I realized that I had what was the equivalent of a masters degree,” says Kavanaugh, who lives near Morristown, New Jersey, and now makes $125 an hour as a certified caregiving consultant (thelongestdance.com/).
Her best advice to clients: Get a power of attorney before something happens, especially if there is any cognitive decline.
|Put grandma and the kids to work|
Sometime the two bread ends of the sandwich are able to work together to help the middle. For Daniel Grote, a financial planner at Latitude Financial Group in Denver, moving his mother-in-law into his home for six years meant she was taken care of and there was a built-in babysitter for his three young kids.
While her stay turned out to be temporary and not too expensive, Grote is now preparing for costs down the road. Taking the advice he gives others, that means looking into long-term care insurance and buying a house big enough for her to have a room if she needs to move back.
Eileen Helmer is also preparing for more intense caregiving duties. She is engaged to be married to a 33-year-old who also lives with his grandparents and helps take care of them. They plan to split their time between the two homes, although they have not yet worked out all the details.
“Maybe my grandmother will take care of my kids,” Helmer says.
Practical tips for family caregivers living in the sandwich generation Elizz
Advocating for yourself as a family caregiver Elizz
Study Examines Caregiving by Family Members, Other Unpaid Individuals HealthinAging.org